Tag Archives: scuba

The Sea Dragon — OddGodfrey: The Oddly Compelling Story of a Sailing Circumnavigation of the World

A cruising sailor and scuba diver will be far more stylish and comfortable in a custom made wetsuit from Thailand. But, if you are going to buy a custom made wetsuit, why stick with the traditional look of a black seal? After a long two year, tropical warm water, diving hiatus wait, Leslie finally

Source: The Sea Dragon — OddGodfrey: The Oddly Compelling Story of a Sailing Circumnavigation of the World

The Shark Highway

After Ali Baba Canyon, we were all so excited about Fakarava diving that we decided to stay at the Fakarava North Pass one extra day to dive the Pass one more time during slack tide.  Loic explained that at slack tide, the sharks hover near the coral for twenty minutes or so, open their mouths and let the little fish clean their teeth.  Sometimes, the sharks get a little woozy because if they stop swimming for too long, they won’t get enough oxygen moving across their gills and they will essentially start to pass out. When the tide starts to shift, the sharks form a line heading in the direction of the pass where they can sit in the current and breath deeply without having to swim so much.  Loic says it looks like a shark highway.  It’s not to be missed.   So, instead of tidying up and getting ready to go, we head to town and find dinner at a little cafe on the beach overlooking Fakarava’s tranquil turquoise lagoon.  We enjoy a savory crepe with thin, Paris style cured ham, cheese and an egg with a rich, bright orange yolk.  We also order a panini with mozzarella, tomato and chorizo – also good.  For desert, Crystal and I share a butter and sugar crepe topped with banana ice cream.  The grains of the sugar crystals remained fresh in the butter sauce, so when you put the bite in your mouth you taste the rich melted butter and the texture of sugar crystals.  The French, what can I say?  Andrew ordered a nutella crepe with dark chocolate ice cream, topped with whipped cream.  I shared his crepe, too.  So, I really got the best of all worlds.  The sugar/butter crepe was better. The wind was piping all night, and the wind generator kept me awake.  It sounded like I was trying to sleep under spinning helicopter blades.  Nonetheless, I was so excited for the Shark Highway that I popped out of bed at my 6:00 a.m. wake up call.  Back at the dive shop, Andrew and I take a Nitrox test so we can continue to dive using Nitrox 21% Oxygen/79% Nitrogen rather than just regular compressed air for the next two dives.  I complain the whole time because I am “on vacation,” but I pass anyway.  We gear up and head back out to the pass.   Wetsuit, weight, BCD, regulator in my mouth, goggles on face, roll back, sink, go.  Pretty soon we are on the bottom again.  This time, we spend a good amount of time on the coral ledge outside the pass.  Early in the dive, Kevin starts banging his tank and pointing skyward.  I follow his hand and see a sailfish!  Sailfish are like marlin or swordfish, only they have a large sail-like fin on their backs.  They were so far away we didn’t get a good picture, but it was still awesome to see.  I will insert a google image for your reference. Loic was right, the sharks were stupendous!  Even more numerous than yesterday, they line up swimming in thick, floating lines just like the Jettsons in their hover cars.  At slack tide, I watch the sharks sit with their mouths open. One sits so long that he suddenly wakes, thrashing about just like a human does when we have a dream about falling.  He swims away.   We find a giant colorful fish eating a white starfish, and a group of little “Nemos” (the same kind of fish from the Disney movie Finding Nemo) snuggling down in an anemone.   Soon, I feel the current shift and where the water was still and quiet it is now blowing past my face like a stiff breeze.  My goggles feel like they could be pulled off in the wake.  I am hanging onto Andrew’s hand with my right hand, and my left hand is anchored on the coral.  Andrew’s right hand is anchored, too, and both of our legs are flying backward.  Loic says it is time to go.   Even faster than yesterday, we wiz along just above the coral.  My body is sideways to the current, I am pushing Andrew along.  We drift into a valley with a coral ledge, and an arch.  Sharks are everywhere.  A few get so close that I can see the white of their eyeball and the diamond shaped pupil in the center.   Their mouths smile from the underside of their body.  Sometimes they seem curious about us, but never aggressive.   Another giant Napoleon approached Loic who is swimming just in front of Andrew and I.  When the Napoleon is only about ten feet away, his thick shapely lips pucker together and his cheeks puff out.  Then, he opens his mouth and spits several shell fragments out.  He swims right in front of Andrew and me, eyeing us wryly. “What?” He seems to say and continues on.  I am laughing through my BCD and giving Andrew the “Did you see that!?” crazy goggle eyes. I did not get a good photo of the Napolean either, but google images to the rescue so you can imagine what I am talking about. The Napolean looked just like this. Our dive lasts 54 minutes, and when it is time to go we let go of the coral and fly into the abyss.  We slowly ascend while drifting very quickly over the ree

Source: The Shark Highway

The Blue Drop, Fakarava North

I hold my goggles on my face and my regulator into my mouth, and I sit on the edge of the dive boat.  The captain counts to three, then I let the weight of the tank pull me backward.  My body ruptures the surface of the ocean and I am churned in the waves with whitecaps cresting.  I pull the cord to deflate the last bit of air in my BCD, and slowly sink with my eyes half in and half out of the water.  I find Andrew’s hand, and keep my eyes on Loic, our dive guide.  We sink, and I am surrounded in Big Blue.  It is above me, in front of me, below me, behind me, to my right and to my left.  I am inside a sphere of nothing but blue.   This is my first “Blue Drop” which means that we are descending from the surface far enough out in the open ocean that we cannot see land at all once we drop under water.  We use our dive watches to track our decent, stop at the appropriate depth, then float the current until we reach the edge of the 5000 foot cliff that is Fakarava. It takes about five minutes before we find the edge of the atoll, 100 feet below the surface.  In that interval, the blue sphere places a soft pressure on my ears, ribs, lungs.  The only motion I feel is the weight of falling in slow motion.   The only sound I hear is the sharp “suck” of air intake, and the round hum of bubbles slowly escaping my regulator as I exhale.  My goal is to exhale a slow, long thirty seconds, wait three seconds, then inhale sharply again.  This technique will extend our tank time if I hold still and float rather than swim. Loic gave us a full discussion of the profile of this dive, and it sounded challenging to my inexperienced self: blue drop, fast current, coral canyons, a “washing machine”.  I was nervous in the dive boat, and almost bailed out.  Now that I am sinking, I am relaxed.  Andrew’s right hand rests in my left.  He gives me the OK sign every few feet, and I respond with an OK sign.  All is well. Soon, the edge of the cliff comes into view.  It’s just a shadow of coral at first, then as we drop it comes more and more into focus.  We find the bottom, and grab hold of a strong coral head with two fingers to rest, group up, and look around.  The current is so strong, as we hold onto the coral head our legs fly backward.  Andrew holds my hand and gives me a wild-eyed stare.  I wound him up in the dive boat, and he is still a little fretful. We see a group of barracuda; sharks drift above us.  For the most part, they ignore us.  A giant Napoleon saunters by; it is as big as a human is long, but more rotund. If I put my fingertips together over my head and make the shape of a circle with my arms, the Napoleon just might fit through the “O”.  He is huge. It is a colorful bright green.  We see white starfish, little blue fish, yellow and black striped fish, red fish.  Soon, with a wave of his arm and a point, Loic indicates that it is time to move forward.  We let go of the coral, and the current takes us forward.  We are pushed into the slot of a canyon that runs along the bottom.  We are whisked through the valley, while colorful red, blue, green, and white coral grows tall on either side of us.  Using our breath to float up or sink down, we follow the contours of the canyon until it is time to skip up and over a plateau, then sink down into the famous “Ali Baba”.  Looking in the distance, you can see rolling hills of coral long into the distance.  Tiny fish hover over the crevices, ready to jump in and hide as we pass through.  A moray eel sticks his nose from his coral hole and watches us parade by. As we reach Ali Baba, we descend into valley dusted with broken bits of coral and discarded sharks’ teeth.  We stop and look around.  A school of thousands of fish watch us watching them.  They swirl around us, while sharks swish their tails back and forth above us.  We sit here and watch as long as our tanks hold out.  It is amazing.  A shark swims past the orb of sunlight 50 feet above me; he is back lit, with a white belly.  Loic starts frantically waving at Kevin, whose belly is dragging close to the ocean floor.  Kevin looks down and sees a nudibranch (a sea creature that is a lot like a caterpillar).  They are usually very colorful and interesting.  I have only seen them in photographs on the internet, never one in person and up close.  This is another bucket list item for me.   Three weeks ago, we didn’t know anything about the Tuamotus.  We hadn’t planned a stop here; we just knew there were atolls between Marquesas and Tahiti that we should try not to smash onto.  Sitting in this underwater paradise teaming with wildlife, I am struck with awe over the variety of experiences I am enjoying in this wink of lifetime I am given.  I seek out some of these experiences, but so many others are happy accidents. Ferdinand’s energy, Manihi-Mama’s hospitality and warmth, Fakarava’s wi

Source: The Blue Drop, Fakarava North